Book now, pay later pattern reshapes pandemic journeys

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down travel, “book now, pay later” offers and third-party services were becoming increasingly popular with travelers.

But in this time of pent-up travel demand and general uncertainty about how and when life – and travel – will return to normal, the thought of putting a future vacation on vacation suddenly makes a lot of sense – and many travel providers are taking it on Knowledge.

Third-party travel financiers like Uplift and Affirm have been in business for nearly a decade, but the challenges of the pandemic have brought other gamers to the table with offerings like this too.

From hotels and airlines to resorts and tour operators, shows how flexible booking options are transforming the way we pay for travel.

The Rise of the Book Now Pay Later Services

“Buying travel can be stressful, especially when shopping with large tickets that are prepaid,” says Brian Barth, CEO of Uplift. “When travelers pay over time, they gain access to a vacation they may never would have thought possible. “

Uplift works with 150+ airlines, cruise lines, vacation packages and resorts to offer a budgeting tool that travelers can use to spread their purchases out instead of waiting to have total travel expenses on hand before booking. And because Uplift’s installment payment plans are based on either zero or soft payments over a clear period of time, they’re more economical than buying a trip with a credit card.

“Most credit cards charge a late payment fee if a payment due date is missed,” Barth notes. Consumers know exactly what their monthly fixed payment will be when they book and how many months it will take to pay for their trip. When you have a balance on your credit card it is difficult to calculate the interest and monthly payments to pay off the balance over a period of time. ”

The other big third-party funding side in this space is Affirm, which offers funding options for everything from fitness equipment and electronics to furniture and travel. “The buy now, pay later” category was already on the rise and the pandemic sparked an even bigger surge, “said Greg Fisher, Affirm’s chief marketing officer. “We believe this is both the result of the rapid acceleration of e-commerce and because consumers are more money conscious than ever and want transparent, flexible ways to pay for things they want and need, including travel.”

Barth agrees and recognizes the pent-up demand for travel as a result of the pandemic for a sharp increase in bookings late last year. “Our average daily transaction volume increased 32% month-over-month in December and 34% in January,” he notes.

Book extended now, pay for options from travel providers later

The rise of flexible booking options isn’t just limited to third party financiers. Even before the pandemic, most major hotel chains were offering fully refundable reservations. In the meantime, almost all major US airlines have also essentially developed a buy-now-fly-later model by permanently eliminating the change fees in the wake of the pandemic.

Of course, there is a little catch. “The kicker is that if you decide to change your flight, you won’t get a refund, just a voucher,” says Brian Kelly, founder and CEO of The Points Guy, adding that you may not get the full value of your initial get purchase when you rebook a cheaper flight. His main tip: “Use your frequent flyer miles because if you want to change or cancel, most of these fees have been waived so you can get all of your miles and taxes back.”

Tour operators like Intrepid Travel have implemented similar policies. “On most of our tours, once travelers have paid the deposit and secured their seat, they have up to 21 days prior to departure to pay the remaining cost of the trip,” said Matt Berna, Managing Director of Intrepid Travel. This flexible booking policy also allows travelers to cancel or change their tour 21 days in advance with no change fee.

Another popular small group tour operator, G Adventures, is currently offering $ 1 deposits for more than 450 trips through March 2022. “We are currently seeing a lot of pent-up demand for trips that most people have limited themselves to, a fairly small radius for the past eight months,” said Ben Perlo, general manager of G Adventures in the US

“While the introduction of the vaccine is optimistic, we also know that we must still exercise caution until we are on the other side of the pandemic,” added Perlo. “That’s why we’ve introduced some ways for travelers to quench their wanderlust by booking with great deals and terms for future trips now.” G Adventures’ Book with Confidence Policy offers flexible rebooking policies so travelers can book and rebook on trips booked before March 31st and before December 31st of this year up to 30 days in advance of their departure date.

Additional booking flexibility also increases

Many travel companies that do not offer vacation-style deals accept future travelers in other ways.

Backroads, an upscale tour operator focused on active travel, is now offering travelers the option to cancel their deposit and receive a full refund by April 1st (or final payment due date, whichever comes first) to giving guests more time to decide whether travel works for them without financial risk. The company has also postponed the due dates for all scheduled trips departing before July 1.

This added flexibility in connection with the vaccine news seems to resonate with travelers. “Our phones are ringing as they did before the pandemic, and guests are optimistic about traveling again,” said Tom Hale, President and Founder of Backroads. “Bookings are two to three times as high as last autumn. We do everything to make it easier for our guests to plan their trip with the greatest possible flexibility. “

The South American tour operator Metropolitan Touring, which focuses on trips to Galapagos, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, offers similarly flexible bookings. The company currently only charges 10% with full payment due 60 days prior to departure for Galapagos travel, 30 days prior to stay at the Masphi biodiversity lodge, and 10 days at the historic Casa Gangotena in Quito, Ecuador. In any case, trips can be postponed without penalty.

In Africa, where many communities suffer from a lack of tourism, tour operators allow even greater flexibility. Thanda Safari in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa does not have to be paid until 30 days prior to departure. If guests are unable to travel after payment is received, bookings will either be postponed or refunded. African Bush Camps, which operates in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, now allows cancellations with full refunds up to 45 days prior to scheduled arrival.

Intrepid Travel’s Matt Berna is optimistic that these flexible booking options will continue after the pandemic. “I believe there has been a permanent shift in adapting flexible booking policies that will continue to be of interest to customers and that the travel industry will in some way provide to travelers.”

After a year of challenges for travelers and tour operators, this seems at least to be a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

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Josh Roberts is the parent, traveler, writer, and co-founder of You can find his debut novel “The Witches of Willow Cove” wherever books are sold online.

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